Quite tellingly, this first issue of Jin & Jam opens with a quote from Taiyo Matsumoto's Black & White. Telling because creator Hellen Jo takes many of her cues from Matsumoto's work, sharing a similar visual and thematic approach to the much lauded Manga. It therefore comes as no great surprise that Jin & Jam reads a little like an affectionate tribute to Matsumoto's epic.
That's not to say that Jo's work is derivative in any way, merely that she's more than happy to acknowledge the comic's cultural heritage, paying tribute to her muse with any number of sly little winks and nods to Treasure Town's original tear away duo.
Opting for a slightly more grounded tone than Black & White, Jo's street urchins seem content to simply drift through life, eating junk food and making small talk. There seems to be no overriding purpose to their actions other than simple minded amusement. Jam and her side kick Hank spend the majority of their time roaming the streets, happily detached from the adult world that surrounds them.
Enter Jin, who crosses the duo's path having made a sneaky exit from church. Breaking her initially clean cut facade, she introduces herself and nonchalantly bums a cigarette off Jam, only to resurface later for a no holds barred fight with the fearsome conjoined twins Ting & Tang.
Almost half the page count of this first issue is dedicated to the above mentioned fight scene, which is a wonderfully absurd sequence, brimming with the kind of wide eyed hyper-kinetic absurdity you'd expect from a eight year old on a serious sugar high, all topped off by a child lassooing, drop kicking Cop on a bike. "You're all under arrest", he bellows form his bike, "for being fucking annoying". If that's not a great one liner, then I don't know what is.
The issue closes on a more plaintive note, as a friendship begins to emerge between Jin and Jam. Sat on swings in the park, the pair are showered with Jin's SAT flash cards and for the first time we learn that Jin has plans to escape the confines of her life in San Jose.
"I wanna go to college, I wanna get out of here".
"Don't you?", she asks Jam, before the two collapse in fits of laughter on the hillside.
And so, Jo presents a clear fork in the road for her characters, and I for one will be interested to see where she goes next. A mere five dollars will get you a copy of this lovely debut issue, which is printed on high quality paper stock. With fewer small press publishers doing pamphlet format comics of late, it's wonderful to see Sparkplug Comics forging ahead with quality titles like Jin and Jam.
Review by Matthew Dick.